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Diabetes: How sweet is it? (part two)

Type I diabetes requires that a person takes insulin to control blood sugar levels because their body is no longer producing insulin. Type II diabetes is when insulin is being produced, but the body is not using it as efficiently, or there is not enough insulin to control blood sugar levels.

The American Dietetic Association has made recommendations for helping control Type I and Type II diabetes through the diet. For people with Type I diabetes, the diet is based on their usual food habits, activity, and type and amount of insulin they are on. Type I diabetics need to monitor blood sugar and adjust insulin on a daily basis.

To control Type II diabetes, the emphasis should be on getting blood sugars, triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure in normal ranges. Checking these areas on a regular basis is very important. Mild to moderate weight loss may also improve control of diabetes. This can be done by regular exercise and learning new behaviors and attitudes.

Some of us may remember the standard diabetic diets for 1200 calories, 1500 calories, etc. Everyone on that calorie level had the follow the same diet. However, for the first time in nearly 75 years, the American Diabetes Association's updated guidelines say there is no one diabetic diet. These canned diets are no longer recommended because they don't take into account a person's food preferences and habits.

The old advice also specified the exact percentage of calories that were supposed to come from proteins, carbohydrates and fat. Now, the only recommendation is that 10 to 20 percent of the total calories per day should come from protein.

What is a diabetic supposed to do for a diet? A registered dietitian can be very helpful in planning a diet based on the person's type of diabetes, age, medical problems, lifestyle, financial situation, culture, ethnic background and education.

When we talk about changes in the diabetic diet, we also need to talk about sugar. Are sugary foods off limits for people with diabetes? The answer is no, because all carbohydrates break down into sugars. The starch from potatoes or bread, or the sugar in cookies and cake break down into sugar for our body to use. Instead of looking at the type of carbohydrate in the food, we need to look at the total carbohydrates for the day and spread these out throughout the day.

Carbohydrates from sweets still play a key role in the overall diet, but they don't have anymore of an affect on blood sugar than the starchy carbohydrates from foods like bread. Of course cakes and cookies add lots of calories and few nutrients to the diet, so moderation is a good idea for anyone who wants to eat healthy.

Back to Part I

Learn more about diabetes

The American Diabetes Assocation


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